Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials are once again lobbying state legislators to give them flexibility on the school calendar. A bill supported by CMS was filed by local General Assembly members in the House Tuesday that would allow district officials to set their own school opening and closing dates.
Currently, under state law, public schools cannot open any earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 and cannot close later than the Friday closest to June 11. CMS officials prefer earlier openings so students can take their final exams before their Christmas breaks says CMS’ policy administrator Charles Jeter.
“There seems to be anecdotal evidence that shows that students who go home for a two week break will lose some material,” Jeter said. “We went back on January 2 and 10 days later they have to take a test on info they learned back in September.”
Jeter says state law requires the exams to be given during the last five days of the semester, which is why they want classes to begin earlier. Charter schools are not bound by that law and Jeter says charter students take their exams in mid-December and probably do better on the tests because the material is fresher in their minds.
“When you’re comparing the effectiveness of schools, traditional public schools and charter schools, we don’t think that’s a fair analysis or fair representation of which schools are doing better by their students,” Jeter said. “We’re not afraid of competition. What we don’t appreciate is unfair competition. We think it causes a detriment to our students and we think it should be changed.”
Jeter thinks the bill has a good chance of passing because last year, legislators gave 15 school districts calendar flexibility as part of a three-year pilot program. Rowan, Guilford and Cabarrus counties are participants. The main opponent of the calendar flexibility in the past has been the tourism industry. They say earlier school starts would cut into their business. August is peak vacation season for North Carolina, especially in coastal areas. The bill approving the pilot program calls for state commerce officials to monitor any adverse effects on the tourism industry.